Sunday, March 23, 2008

The World is Round

Byline by M J Akbar :The World is Round

The Congress theory of political success in the next election consists of simple arithmetic. Rural sops will bring the rural vote. The nuclear deal will bring in the urban vote. The massage of promises and words will retain the Muslim vote.

If Dr Manmohan Singh loses the next general election — predicted for October by the knowledgeable — he will know whom to blame: his best new friend George Bush. Bush has achieved something unique. He has globalised defeat.

The reasons and means vary. In Britain Tony Blair may be eased out and in Australia John Howard may be driven out, but the word in common is "out". Bush crippled himself long before time made him a lame duck. He began to cripple his friends at the height of his power, and the curse continues in the twilight of his term.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh escaped the swamps of Iraq, but he could become the victim of one bilateral Bush initiative, the potential nuclear deal with India, and the huge, chaotic mismanagement of the economy that has compounded the gushing fiscal wounds of the Iraq-Afghanistan war. Bush has financed this colossal misadventure with IOUs on history and debt from the world economy, setting off a sinful (as opposed to virtuous) cycle.

Debt and war have destroyed perpetrator and victim alike in the past. They are doing so again. Bush's wars cost $33.8 billion in 2002; they have ballooned to $171 billion by 2007. Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel for Economics, has estimated that the cost of the Bush wars could cross three trillion dollars by 2017, that is, in another ten years. Go figure, as they say in America. Where has the money come from? Debt.

Debt has helped weaken the dollar. Producers who sell oil in dollars, seeking to keep their income constant in real terms, and oil companies who profit in whichever direction the wheel spins, have kept raising the price of oil. A spiral effect has driven prices into the stratosphere. Oil was $23 a barrel when the Iraq war began; it is over $110 now. The pressure of prices has induced an impassioned chorus for alternative energy. Bush decided to subsidize the production of ethanol to produce this alternative energy. American farmers switched from food-for-the-stomach to crops-for-cash. There is now a critical shortage of wheat and rice around the world. The temptation of cash and higher prices impact on the pattern of agriculture. Cash crops replace staple crops. The prices of basic edibles join the spiral. India is now on the cusp of inflationary pressures that could go ballistic, even as the government has no solution in mind except a series of sops that will be throwing a bucket of water into a desert. Prices of basic food and oil in the Indian bazaar are rising at a dramatic pace. For the poor, this is a kick where it hurts most, in the stomach. Their pain will be reflected in the vote in the next general elections.

This too is globalization, a chain of sequence and consequence that is linked across the world.

The managers of 'globalization', a vast and varied array of vested interests that may not necessarily be in harmony on some issues but always closes rank to protect its core interest, take care to cohere globalization to good news. It is a brand that needs protection in order to get promotion. Bad news, even when it becomes a worldwide epidemic from a single virus, is never called globalization. No one uses the term when the New York Stock Exchange sneezes and Mumbai catches a cold. This would tarnish the image of globalization as the panacea in a post-Marxist age, a libertarian answer to socialism's impenetrable dogma. Very few — although Stiglitz is famously among the few — wonder about the tipping point, when the liberty of this philosophy morphs into license into virtually printing money.

One reason — of course, not the only one — why share markets today are as flat as the globalize world is because the meaning of capital has changed, shifting in the process the original goalposts of capitalism. Capital was the means necessary for the production of goods and services that could be sold for a profit, creating jobs and higher-standard lifestyles. Profit, of course, has always been an elastic word, stretching as far as the market will bear. Hence, marketing became a tool by which a need was enhanced into an illusion in order to raise prices and maximize profits. Thus soap, a need for the elimination of dirt, was elevated into a magic wand that would make you into a film star. Perfume is no longer a discreet veil over body odour, but a sex accessory. A handbag is no longer a convenience; it is a photograph of your bank statement. A watch no longer merely tells the time; it is a status symbol. But all this is acceptable because, at the core, there is a product, created out of capital.

But we have now moved into share markets and a world economy where there is illusion without a base, and value is attached to a fiction; and when the principal purpose of money is not to add to the quantum of goods and services but merely to make more paper or plastic money. The Sensex keeps rising in increasingly thin air, crossing peaks that are not made of rock but are arbitrary niches in the financial ozone layer. Even in the best of times, turbulence in the American economy, by far the most powerful, would have sent shudders. But connectivity now honed to marginal shifts in value, a sub-prime crisis in America wipes out ban profits in India. There is little insulation.

The Congress theory of political success in the next election consists of simple arithmetic. Rural sops will bring the rural vote. The nuclear deal will bring in the urban vote. The massage of promises and words will retain the Muslim vote. Hallelujah! We are all in power for five more years. The arithmetic could get disjointed by algebra. Prices cross the rural-urban divide, leaving anger in their wake. The minorities have heard the talk, and got nothing substantive; while Muslims are angry at the alliance with Bush which makes India a possible ally in Bush's wars against Muslim nations.

The most consistent fact of democracy is its ability to surprise governments who think they have won elections before the votes have been counted. This happened with the last national government in Delhi. The BJP has still not psychologically recovered from the shock that told the party that India was not shining as luminously as it thought. If the Congress does not watch out, it could face some shock therapy soon.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mr.Akbar, How come you too have started seeing Indians in terms of religion and caste? Poverty is all pervasive in India-my point is poverty is universal and does not recognize religious divide? Is it not a fact that for all humbug about the great India democracy all parties ask votes in name of caste/religion/class? Have we really moved away from feudal structure of pre-Independence India?One Mayawati replacing another Yadav and taking Indian public for a ride with fals promises
Are we not capable of real reforms clean and efficient government?Why do we discuss about Bush interests rather than the average Indian's interests-the common man?

Surely capitalism has its good points too and very creed has its advantages and imperfections.

NRI Singapore

}{^ HimaLayaN--SwaStikA ^}{ said...

I really have very few things which I hate in this world. Current Indian Congress party is one of them. The party who has outsourced its presidency to some Italian mama is really hurting India. Some of you might be really angry with me for calling Sonia Maino like this but even after all these years I still think that she doesn’t consider herself as an Indian. I don’t have anything against Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi as they were born in India. But somehow Sonia Maino doesn’t strike a chord with my Indian heart. As she descended upon the Indian political scene in 1998, it might have been of a little good for warring congress lords but not for my mother India.
I have problem with Sonia Maino and there are many reasons behind it. First and most important one, she refused to take Indian citizenship till Sanjay Gandhi was alive on Indian political scene. I don’t have any affection with Gandhi clan but it took our current Congress Party president and super prime minister more than 10 years to take citizenship of India. Secondly she took her pilot husband Rajiv Gandhi out of India at the time of 1971 war with Pakistan. Officially no Indian pilot is allowed to go abroad in case of war with other country as pilots are needed for doing various jobs in war time. Thirdly, one of her best friend the infamous arms dealer Ottavio Quattorochi looted Indian tax payer’s money in Bofors gun case. She is still protecting that criminal by using CBI as her personal service guards in front of all of us. The irritation list against her is so long that I will get a heart attack if I write it all here. Now we have her crowned prince Rahul Gandhi, who is being projected as savior of India by sycophant congress and its allied media.
I would like to ask just one question what did Rahul do to have such privilege except being born to Rajiv and Sonia Maino? Rahul Gandhi is of approximately 40 years of age and still he is on the tour to discover India. Or what did Rajiv Gandhi do to become prime minister of India except being son of Indira Gandhi? The whole country is being offered to them on the plate. But anyways its their Karma and I don’t have much of the problem with that. I can just comment on my views although they may not be important for anyone. You can say why I am not in politics to change things? Well you might have guessed it right till now that I am not a Gandhi to have it all. I am not even related to any politician, I am just a common man in India and being common is worse thing in India to enter into politics. Who created this culture of sycophancy in India? Your guess is right again its this Nehru-Gandhi clan which promoted it and still ruling India as if they have some divine rights. They never promoted inter party democracy in this democratic India.
Believe me this Nehru-Gandhi clan isnt doing any favor to India by just being here but they see this as opportunity to preside over fortunes of a billion plus Indian. I have many problems with Jawaharlal Nehru. Some people believe that he was the architect of this modern India and India’s stability as democracy owes much to him but I don’t agree with this statement as at that time there were many big stalwarts in India who were better suited for the job, specially Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel and after him Lal Bahadur Shashtri, Dr Rajendra Prasad and many others. What Nehru gave to India is what any one else would have given because others were not any less competent than him. In fact many of the burning problems in India today owes their origin entirely to Mr Nehru like Kashmir problem, the Tibetan issue, the north east militancy, border dispute with china, corrupt burocracy and non accountability of the public servants. I will just say little about all these problems and how Nehru was responsible for all this as every thing is available for everyone to read.
First and foremost the Kashmir dispute, there were more than 560 princely states in India at the time of independence. Sardar Patel took up the responsibility to merge all of them except one into independent India. Your guess is right again the only state he wasn’t given responsibility was Jammu and Kashmir and you know why? Because Jawaharlal Nehru was a kashmiri pandit and he took that in his hand. As you all Indians are seeing it now he messed it all up in such a fashion that even after 60 years we are not able to solve it. Nehru thought of himself so highly that he was out of his mind and practicality on crucial issues. He thought of himself as leader of international stature who was more interested in solving world problems than taking care of his newly built burning home. Instead of allowing Indian army to finish its job in taking over whole J&K from Pakistani attack, he took advice of Mountbatten and took the matter to United Nations. United Nations declared cease fire in 1948 and now you have got J&K controlled by China, Pakistan and India. He didn’t learn his lesson and messed up in case of Tibet. China attacked and annexed Tibet in 1950, which made Dalai Lama to flee from there and take shelter in India. He happily declared that he doesn’t have any problem with this and signed treaty with communist china in the name of Panchsheel principle in 1954. He had socialism in his mind and completely failed to see expansionist design of China. China attacked and humiliated India in 1962, and what Nehru and his than defense minister were doing? They were busy in proclaiming that India doesn’t even need an army and started using military equipment manufacturing units to make tractors. China still claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own territory, its crushing unarmed Tibet monks with bullets, its controlling India’s Aksai Chin in J&K, it has Mansarover area under its control which was traditionally part and parcel of Indian ethos for millennia, it supports Pakistan with missiles and nukes to threaten India and what our great Congress leaders headed by Sonia Maino are doing? They are busy in saving their government which survives on oxygen from pro China traitor communist parties in India.
Nehru didn’t concentrate his development policies on North East India and we have militancy there which is basically arising out of resentment of local population because of non development. Nehru didn’t concentrate his mind on primary education for all Indians. That non availability of quality primary education for all citizens is root cause of many fundamental problems we face in India today. He some what succeeded in higher education by setting up IITs and IIMs even they were also not enough for such a big population. He didn’t change the corrupt burocracy and local administration set up by British to govern uncivilized India and what we got after independence was just replacement of Gora Sahibs by Brown Sahibs. The government which was Mai Baap before independence remained the same and instead of serving people, it made people serve it same as before independence.
People say that Indira and Rajiv Gandhi died for the country but I beg to differ as they died because they wanted to gain some political mileage by playing with people’s emotion. They died because of their own karma. I just praise Indira Gandhi for breaking up Pakistan in 1971 but who agreed on having Pakistan on both sides of India? It was her father and Mahatma Gandhi against the wishes of Sardar Patel agreed on communal division of India. Congress which ruled for almost 50 years out of 60 years of independent India has to take blame for all the mess in India today and their present actions doesn’t seem good enough to even think about that they have got a change in their mentality. They are still doing the same divide and rule policy which is one of the many British legacies they have picked up. Instead of justice for all they are again indulging in fanning caste and community differences by allocating budget resources on the basis of religions. I would just like to ask you all, is this party good enough to even stand for a fight in local panchayat election?
Whatever good which still left in India is because the Government wasn’t aware of the actual situation like in Information technology otherwise you might be seeing Congress led government issuing dictates how much software a Infosys, Wipro or TCS can produce. Congress let India ruined and ignorant so that these Gandhis with their small handful sycophants can loot India for so long. Whosoever is saying that Sonia Maino has sacrificed anything for my motherland is doing a great mistake. Just think which thing is better: To rule over a billion plus population like an empress in modern times or to live a not so well known life in some small Italian Villa in Italy? I know Sonia Maino isnt that much of a fool to leave India and live in Italy, otherwise who will take care of the future of Prince Rahul Gandhi the prime minister in waiting? But that thing is only in the interest of the Nehru Gandhi family so what about rest of India? Rest of India has progressed despite so many hurdles and made its presence felt everywhere they have gone. I still wonder why it took a Dr Hargobinda Khurana , Dr Chandrashekhar or even a L N Mittal to leave India for winning Nobel Prize or creating the biggest steel industry on earth? The problem lies with the rulers who haven’t given ample opportunity to its citizen to do that progress from India. Why Indian migrant communities are so law abiding and successful everywhere else than India? Why a nation of over a billion people still havent been able to get a single Olympic gold medal in individual events? Why even after 60 years of independence people are dying out of hunger? Why after that so many villages don’t have electricity, hospital and clean drinking water? Why once world guru in learning havent been able to provide good primary education to its citizen? Why we still have corrupt officials ruling over the country? Why the honest and law abiding Indians always have to face problem while rich and crooked just get their ways? Why judiciaries take such a long time to declare verdicts? Why we don’t follow much of the traffic rules and see absence of accountability every where? There are many burning questions but most of the answers point their fingers at Congress party and its 50 years of rule on India.
So what is the solution? Solution lies in realization of all young Indians to stand up against the injustice and create a society where every Indian can dream becoming a participant in shaping its destiny. All educated people should come out and vote rather than going on picnic on voting days. You get the government you deserve. We have to see beyond the obvious reasons of caste, creed, religion and community if we want our India to make progress. Congress with communist parties has fooled Indians for so long but now this is young India’s time to show how they can change things for better. I can smell the change.. and I hope that day is not that far when we will again have what we have lost… May god direct our intellect in right direction.